PANNA: Monsanto Hurts Texas Farmers



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Monsanto Hurts Texas Farmers
Cotton Farmers Sue Monsanto for Crop Loss
March 27, 2006

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“The main thing about this is that we feel like Monsanto has been lying to us, completely disrespecting farmers and consultants who have many years of experience growing cotton in Texas.” Francis Krenek’s statement as a crop consultant for cotton farmers in the area near Wharton, Texas, comes after years of working with farmers to help them grow more profitable cotton crops using genetically modified seed technology. According to Krenek, farmers in his area have somewhat been forced to use genetically modified seed varieties containing Monsanto’s “Round-Up Ready” trait. In many cases, certain varieties of seed are only available in combination with a form carrying the Round-Up Ready trait. When the Round-Up Ready system failed, Monsanto blamed the weather, not their own failed technology. Now the farmers are fighting back and have come together to sue Monsanto for damages that they feel were a direct result of the Round-Up Ready system failure.

“Just after first bloom, we noticed that our fields of Round-Up Ready cotton that had received hooded applications of Round-Up (glyphosate) were experiencing significant first position boll shed, representing substantial loss of fiber and seeds,” explains Krenek. “The boll of the cotton plant is where the fibers and seeds are located. The treated fields appeared as if they had been victims to insects or rainy or cloudy weather, but neither was the case,” according to Krenek. He explained that an unusually high number of bolls were also misshaped. He called it “parrot-beaked” bolls, shaped as though it has a beak, and not round like a healthy boll. Generally, parrot-beaked bolls were found on second and third positions following the shed first position boll. “We feel like the amount of shedding and number of parrot-beaked bolls was directly related to both the rates and numbers of glyphosate applications and variety selection,” said Krenek. In extreme cases this year, treated fields of Round-Up Ready cotton never set any bolls until nearly the end of the growing season. Some of these fields were not worth harvesting and were shredded down. “We had seen the same damage patterns in previous years, but not as severe as this year.”

Monsanto’s experts who evaluated the damaged cotton said that it was strictly related to adverse weather. However, Krenek says that his fields of Round-Up Ready cotton that were never treated with glyphosate and his fields containing varieties of non Round-Up Ready cotton produced normal crops for the 2005 growing season. Still, Monsanto representatives failed to acknowledge any problems with the Round-Up Ready system. “I feel like Monsanto has purposely hidden the true limitations of the Round-Up Ready technology from the cotton industry,” Krenek said.

Krenek and the Texas farmers he is working with now know what farmers around the world have been dealing with for years–the arrogance of the multinational corporation Monsanto, a U.S. company that is harming farmers worldwide and threatening their right to grow healthy crops. Monsanto is notorious among social justice and environmental activists worldwide for committing unethical acts in science and business, arrogantly wreaking havoc on thousands of small farmers and their ability to grow food. U.S. farmers now join those in Africa, Asia, and South America in standing up to Monsanto.

Some “highlights” of Monsanto’s questionable behavior include:

  • International price fixing of genetically modified seeds.
  • Making huge amounts of hazardous waste (potentially responsible for over 93 Superfund sites in the U.S.).
  • Deliberately submitting fraudulent data to the EPA on dioxin, including rigging health studies, and weakening dioxin regulations.
  • Giving the U.S. government a Roundup formulation containing a glyphosate concentration 26 times higher than that recommended for agricultural use in combination with a surfactant, called Cosmo-flux, which has not been approved by EPA for aerial spraying in Columbia, resulting in the deaths of livestock and fish and linked to human ailments.
  • Dumping PCBs they made into creeks in Anniston, Alabama, killing fish. The act was covered up along with suppression of studies showing that PCBs cause cancer.
  • Bribing officials in Indonesia, conducting disinformation campaigns in India, and deliberately contaminating GMO-free lands in Brazil, Paraguay and India to pave the way for legalizing their use.

Of all the terrible things Monsanto has done to hurt farmers in the world, the manufacturing of the genetically modified “Terminator” seeds is one the worst. These seeds, also known as “suicide seeds,” prevent farmers from saving and using their own seed stocks from year to year. According to the Australian based Network of Concerned Farmers, over one billion farmers worldwide depend on being able to generate their own seed stocks each year. In Uganda, farmers are worried that the Terminator seeds will impact their indigenous crops, crucial for their survival. Through massive lobbying efforts with the United Nations, World Trade Organization, and other international organizations involved in making food and agriculture policy, Monsanto has essentially forced governments to allow the use of this technology in a direct threat to food sovereignty around the globe.

Monsanto has a fulltime staff of 75 with a $10 million annual budget devoted solely to suing farmers. Monsanto has received over $15 million in “damages” against farmers. According to a report from the Center for Food Safety, “No farmer is safe from the long reach of Monsanto.” Safe or not, the cotton farmers in Texas are standing up to this corporate giant. Claiming a “longstanding campaign of deception,” their lawsuit is requesting that the Federal court award both actual and punitive damages.

Monsanto had insisted that farmers who use their products sign arbitration agreements. These agreements stated that if farmers had a problem with Monsanto, they must go into arbitration, but if Monsanto had a problem with the farmers, they could go to court. When Monsanto discovered that the farmers were organizing, they sued 158 farmers to compel them to honor the arbitration clause in the technology agreement. Some of the farmers have filed for arbitration, some have sued Monsanto; however, many of the farmers’ fate has yet to be determined by the court.

These problems in Texas in 2005 were a repeat of similar Round-Up Ready cotton incidences in 1997 in Mississippi and Georgia. The Mississippi Seed Board conducted arbitration and found Monsanto liable.

“Monsanto wants to keep this matter hidden from public view,” according to an attorney working with the farmers. “Some Monsanto employees told the growers in Texas that the problem was Round-Up Ready damage before they got organized. Their story changed to “hot weather” and has remained the same since; however, some seed company representatives have told farmers that they all know it was Roundup-Ready damage. There are now reports from Australia that there are problems identical to the cotton problems in Texas.”

Although Monsanto claims that weather is to blame for the technology that caused the crop losses, farmer Alan Stasney said he has evidence in his fields to the contrary. A strip of cotton four rows across and 3,000 feet long that inadvertently was not treated with Roundup yielded 1,051 pounds of lint per acre at harvest, while on either side of those rows, cotton that was treated with Roundup yielded only 675 pounds per acre. Stasney said the lost yield cost him more than $250,000 in sales and forced him to refinance his farm. “It is just a real sad situation,” said Stasney. “There are a lot of people in a world of hurt because of that.”

Aside from crop damage, glyphosate, the chemical used in Roundup-Up Ready, has been linked to liver, thyroid and pancreas tumors in animal studies.

PAN promotes support and resources for farmers all over the world to realize the right to grow healthy crops and to help them transition from chemical-intensive farming to sustainable farming methods.

Center for Food Safety

Coalition Against Bayer Dangers

Defend Sustainable Agriculture

Essay on Funding Integrated Pest Management in California

Friends of the Earth 2006 Report on Genetically Modified Crops

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Network of Concerned Farmers

PANNA’s Corporate Profile on Monsanto:
Contact: PANNA

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